In Luke 9:51, Jesus sets His face toward Jerusalem. The rest of the book of Luke records this journey to accomplish His “exodus” (9:31). But much of the surrounding discussion with the disciples is taken up with whether they will follow Him (cf. 9:23ff, 9:48ff, 9:57ff).
In other words, the faces of the disciples are turned every which way: comparing themselves to one another (9:46), comparing themselves to other (successful) exorcists (9:49), and frustrated by skeptical Samaritans (9:52-54). So Jesus warns any who would follow Him that if they put their hand to this plow, they must not look back (9:62).
There is a way of teaching or preaching this call to discipleship that breeds severity and discouragement, but this rests on a misunderstanding of what Jesus has set His face to do. Has Jesus set His face in frustration? Has Jesus set His face in stern determination? Why has Jesus set His face toward Jerusalem? The answer is: For love. The face of Jesus is set toward Jerusalem in order to win His bride, to see her with Him in glory without spot or wrinkle. Certainly, there is a holy duty involved, and the cross is also an expression of God’s righteous fury with sin and all of its horrific effects. But the center of His mission is love for the lost, love for the unlovely, love for the guilty, love for the shamed.
And so anyone who would follow Jesus must be gripped by this love, this willingness to sacrifice, to suffer and die to set the beloved free. Love is overused, misused, and misrepresented and dies the death of a mindless inflation. But love is still real, still powerful for all that. And nothing short of that kind of hopeful, determined, joyful love can fix our eyes on the One who can free us from every Egypt and bring us into the Promised Land. It is this love that compels us to put our hands to the plow and not look back. It’s like standing up at your wedding. How could you be distracted by anything else, anyone else? He has come for you. Fix your eyes on Him. Don’t look back.